Study: Caffeine Reduces Inflammation that Causes Cognitive Decline

Julia Little  |  January 4, 2013

As individuals age, they will likely experience some level of forgetfulness, but those who exhibit stronger symptoms of mental decline may be living with mild cognitive impairment (MCI). According to the National Institutes of Health, MCI is often the stage between normal age-related memory loss and the development of dementia. MCI can make it difficult for seniors to make decisions, multitask and remember recent events or conversation. However, new studies are suggesting that caffeine may help to protect against MCI and even restore memory.

Many researchers are studying dementia and MCI to find clues that can help them better understand the aging brain and possibly discover preventative treatment methods. A group of scientists from the University of Illinois (U of I) recently examined the relationship between caffeine and dementia, as caffeine has been linked to a reduced risk of the disease by previous studies. The researchers studied the effects of caffeine on mice and found those that were treated with caffeine showed marked improvements in forming new memories than the control group.

"We have discovered a novel signal that activates the brain-based inflammation associated with neurodegenerative diseases, and caffeine appears to block its activity," said Gregory Freund, a professor at the University's College of Medicine, as well as a member of the University's Division of Nutritional Sciences. "This discovery may eventually lead to drugs that could reverse or inhibit mild cognitive impairment."

This study is a big step in the fight against dementia, and older adults can take action to preserve their own cognitive function. Many other studies have shown that exercising and participating in stimulating mental activities, such as crossword puzzles, can help keep brains healthy and improve senior living. Keeping the mind and body actively engaged is key to staving off the effects of memory loss, and many retirement communities offer activities and programs that can help seniors stay active.

Not all cases of MCI lead to dementia, but it is important for seniors and their family members to watch for signs of impairment and speak to a doctor right away. There is no cure for dementia, but early detection is the best way to treat symptoms and slow the progression of the illness. 

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